Georgia Webb scratched crimson polish from her thumbnail as she approached Dry Gulch’s new director, Ned Burton. Long, brown waves obscured his face as he wrote in a file on his desk.
“You wanted to see me, Mr. Burton?”
He looked up and pushed his copper-colored wire-rimmed glasses back toward the bridge of his nose. “Ah, Nurse Webb. Have a seat.”
She sat on the hard wooden chair facing him and continued to scrape polish off while he returned to writing. “What is it? I need to finish prepping this afternoon’s meds. I don’t have all day.”
He looked up again, raising one eyebrow, then finished the note and put the pen down. “This won’t take long. I want to know what you think about Leon Ames. I’ve got his file here, and there are some discrepancies.”
“The man’s a nut case, obviously.”
“Many of these notes were written by you. And I’m curious.” He thumbed through papers in a folder and tapped his index finger on a messy page with lots of text crossed out. “Take this, for instance.” He turned a document toward her, so she could read the writing. “Why did his medications change so dramatically after the twister in ‘61? It was a major disruption for everyone, but he’s the only one whose medications changed.”
“Darned if I know. You’d have to ask Warren Raines, the director at that time.”
“You know I can’t do that since he passed away last year.”
“Well, it’ll just have to remain a mystery.” She scratched the last bit of polish from her thumb and started in on her index finger.
“Why do you suppose there isn’t one note in here written by Warren? Other records from that time have plenty of his notes.”
“I wouldn’t know.” She gripped the arms of her chair. “You know everything got disorganized at that time. Some records were lost completely. I’d expect discrepancies to be normal.”
“I suppose you’re right.”
“Can I go now? It’s time to dispense the meds.”
“Yes, of course.”
She rose from the chair and lurched toward the door.
“Uh, one more thing,” he said.
She kept walking
“His shoe size. It was a 13 when he arrived.”
She halted and looked over her shoulder. “So?”
“It’s a 9 now.”
“Don’t you have anything better to do than dig around in old records, especially from the time when the twister hit? The men here need you now.”
He straightened papers in the folder and closed it. “I see your point. But still—”
“I have to go.” She faced forward again and raced down the hall to the nurse’s station, where she addressed a woman sitting at the desk. “Sherri, I’m suddenly sick to my stomach. Must have been something in my lunch. Can you finish up the meds for me?”
Without waiting for an answer, she ran out the door, got into her car and sped off, careened down country roads, and screeched to a halt in her driveway, heart thumping so hard her neck throbbed. Color returned to her face as she peeled off garments on the way to her bedroom. She was down to her garter belt, hose and white nurse’s cap when she stepped inside, expecting him to be on the bed, waiting for her. But he was not there.
“Honey? Sugar Bear? Where are you?” She looked under the bed, behind the curtains, in the adjoining bathroom. “Lambkins? Come to Mama, now.” She searched the entire house, but the man she had risked everything for was gone. In her kitchen, she pulled out a step stool so she could reach the top shelf of a cabinet above the refrigerator. She grabbed a teddy-bear cookie jar and carried it down. She opened the lid and found all the bills she’d tucked inside were gone. Their nest egg, their future, their grand escape. Gone. His promises, his vows. Her lover, the real Leon Ames. Gone.
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